Tuesdays with #ILTA11

There are a couple of points from today that I want to explore in full post detail on their own, when I find time. (Because there’s always so much “free” time during this conference!) So today’s wrap up will mention them, but not get too detailed.

First up was Tom Koulopoulus, who has been a keynote speaker at every ILTA conference I’ve ever attended, which seems like a weird coincidence, but the man is good. I’m not going to give you much of a wrap up, because frankly, you’ll get much more from Mary Abraham’s write-up of it that I could offer you, so go read that, and then come back for the rest of the day….

OK, good? So after the keynote, I was off to

Forensics 101 for Legal Professionals

I was excited for this double-session, and while the information was good, I think I should have paid more attention to the 101 part of the title. It was a little more basic than I had hoped for. I only stuck around for the first of the two parts, so perhaps the second part got a bit more in-depth, but I had some other appealing options, so I punted on it. Still, during this first session, a couple of interesting take aways:

  • The speaker compared the cross-contamination of the blood evidence from the OJ trial to what happens when an attorney opens a collected PST in his own Outlook. Once it’s been done, you can never be sure the data inside the PST is the same.
  • He encouraged legal professionals to not simply rely on the forensic experts. Yes, sometimes you need their expertise and processes to get something done correctly, but you need to understand what it is they are doing, and what you can expect from them. It reminded me of the many stories we are starting to see about attorneys pointing the finger of blame at third-parties for ediscovery failures, and judges not letting them off, because it’s their responsibility to oversee the work of anyone involved in the case.
  • If you are dealing with a collection of client data, and you find child pornography mixed in, your first call is not to the attorney, the client contact, or your boss. It is the FBI, by law. (He also shared a story of people who have been downloading large repositories from bittorrent and limewire sites, that have illegal material mixed in that they are completely unaware of, and now they are in possession of it illegally. Scary stuff!)

After the initial introduction to the basics of forensics, we got to play around a bit with an image in FTK, which is a nice tool. Unfortunately, it also seemed relatively easy to figure out how to use, so I wasn’t real sure about the value of the next session beyond that, and the search exercises, so I instead turned my attention to the next session.

Talking Tech to Lawyers

This was an interesting discussion. Obviously, this was also a very popular session too. It’s a challenge to explain technology to the lawyers in our firms, whether it’s general technology or a specific area like Litigation Support. It’s even harder to say no to the people who own the firm. But there are some ways to improve things.

  • It all starts with having a well-defined strategy. Within your strategic IT plan, you define where you are now, where you’re going, and details like where you will draw the line on data security (as defined by your clients!). Then, when it comes time to answer the “why can’t I..” questions, you have the overall strategy to point at.
  • The strategy will also guide you when appealing for budget, rolling out new initiatives and making choices between partners pet technology projects.
  • It’s also important to communicate well and build relationships and trust within the firm. (Skills we discussed in depth yesterday as well, I sense a theme.) It’s those relationships that help you build consensus for change and keep the strategy on the right track. If you have a tech committee, make sure you work well and build a relationship with each individual before you start taking on the committee as a whole.
  • If you are going to say no, be able to back it up with facts. If you can’t right then, don’t say no. Say I don’t know, but I’ll look in to it, and gather your facts!
  • Sometimes, in a firm, you still have to let some people live by different rules. If you can’t live with that, working in a law firm may not be for you. (Hmm, given the discussion about burn out yesterday, I do wonder if there are some people who simply can’t exist for long in this world? Are there some things about working in a firm that are that different from other organizations?)

After lunch, and news of the earthquake, I was off to a panel I had my doubts on, but which turned out to be an interesting one, though not in the way I expected.

Software Tools for your Lit Support Toolkit

I won’t try and get into listing all the tools that were discussed.You can get the list, and more, from the session documents available at the conference site when it becomes available. (As of right now the APPS7 session is not up there, but they promise the list will be there) In fact,most of the sessions up to now have materials available from there, so go check them all out if you can’t be here.

No, the interesting discussion was a bit of a tangent from the presentation. As we discussed tools for capturing data from websites, there was a somewhat large discussion about the defensibility, and admissibility, of data captured in various forms from a public website. If you use Acrobat yourself to capture a site, is it truly admissible as evidence? If you grab a screenshot will you then be a witness to explain what you did? Do you need to hire an expert to capture web data, and how do you explain that cost to an attorney who insists you “just print what’s on my screen, now”? Clearly, there is no consensus on the best way to do this, and quite a bit of FUD being spread out there about what is acceptable to a court in the absence of any clear judicial guidelines.

Personally, while I’m not a lawyer, I go back to something I said in an interview with Bow Tie Law Blog’s Josh Gilliland at last year’s ILTA conference. There was a time in the legal world where discovery involved typed documents, and when you collected them it was good enough for the person who typed them to simply swear that the typed document was, in fact, typed as it is, on the date it says it was typed. Is information gathered from a website, through a print screen, or even a simple print function, all that different? Maybe we can get an attorney to chime in with some actual legal opinions as opposed to what seems like common sense to me.

The last session of the day fort me was in the Thompson West track

Reducing Friction Points Between Litigation Workflow Apps

I went in half-expecting to hear a sales pitch about how Thompson West products help with this, and really, that was ok, it would still be educational for me. I suspect,from the small crowd, that I wasn’t the only one. (Though the last session of the day scheduling and out of the way room location probably helped that as well!) I was, however pleasantly surprised by the quality of information here, especially as it came to identifying the challenges. Some points to ponder:

  • Processing costs have not come down proportionate to the volume of data. In the last 7 years, the volume of data to be dealt with has increased 27 times over, while the processing cost per GB has only decreased 10 times over.
  • Smaller firms are able to compete in areas they couldn’t before due to increased efficiencies brought about by technology. According to Chris Dale, different jurisdictions are now competing as well when the matter can be tried in different locations. NY firms are losing business to London firms, who are losing business to EU firms where the costs are lower and the technology to be connected has made the world smaller.
  • Chris says that firms will win business by being great at estimating costs for their clients. The firm that can help a client know what to expect when it comes to costs, will win their business.
  • Chris also gave a good overview of the judiciary. Don’t wait for a judge to tell you to use predictive coding, for example. They won’t do it. They do, however, expect you to use technology to help things move along efficiently and to be able to defend your technology choices. Judges also understand that meeting the ediscovery standards perfectly is not the point of a case. It is not a binary choice of preserve everything or be sanctioned.
  • Jeff Wood described litigation data management as a nightmare. Just the simple change to using more video depo transcripts has increased the need for storage space. Instead of a text file, we’re dealing with 3-5 GB per video file for every transcript in every case, and it is on a never ending archive cycle. No one wants to completely get rid of anything, they want it archived, in case they need it, as if that somehow frees up space! In the previous session Danny Chan actually talked about the need for tools that would ingest straight from media into processing software. Think about getting a large case with 1TB of data, the first thing you do is make a working copy, then you process it, which makes another copy within the processing software, then after culling, you pull yet another copy of, let’s say half, of it, into a review platform. Suddenly your 1TB of data is taking up 3.5TB of disk space. (More if you imaged it when processing, to be used in the review platform.) It’s out of control. Law firms are in such need of realistic document retention strategies when it comes to ediscovery data, but are so resistant to them in this area. Is it because they don’t want to wait for the data to be reprocessed or re-loaded into review platforms? Are our own processes feeding the reluctance? I don’t know, just asking.
  • Jeff also briefly mentioned push back he got from attorneys about using technology that would help them be more efficient. Because getting work done faster actually makes them less productive according to the measurements used in law firms. (Less billable hours!) This is something that was asked about later, and I talked about in the hallway with some of the speakers, that I want to delve into further at a later time.
  • Ultimately, the panel agreed that the way to reduce friction was to find a process that worked for your attorneys, for your clients, and for your internal team, and make it repeatable. It won’t be completely frictionless, we aren’t there yet, but when you can have a process that everyone is following, that helps. Again, communication comes to the forefront of defining the best process for your own situation, and leveraging technology that makes the process more efficient is a good thing, it provides better value for your clients, and I’m thinking, more predictability in what the process will look like and how much it will cost for them as well!

As usual, after a day full of sessions, the evening was spent socializing, and having a good time with friends both old and new. There’s a lot to be said for the value in those connections, perhaps even more than the value of the sessions.

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